Beat the Heat

In case you hadn’t noticed everyone, summer’s here.  Just one foot out the door and you’re sweating.  Five minutes out and you’re drenched.  Here are some ideas that might help you beat the heat with the kids as we move into this very, very hot time of year.

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Ayyee Mom, it is hot out here!

1. Pool – This one is not rocket science, folks.  When it’s hot, go to the pool.  Bring lots of snacks, toys, bikes, trikes, scooters, and lunch and play in the water for hours.  Yes, you do have to be mindful of the strong sun so make sure the kids are fully sun-blocked and have on their SPF-50 shirts and a hat.  Starting early (say, 8am) or late (say, 4pm) can help you avoid the strong rays.  I was nine months pregnant with Katelyn this time last year and I took Logan to the pool everyday.  Everyday.  I bobbed while he swam.  It was heaven for both of us.

2. Find a Good Indoor Play Area – Try the fairly new Kidzoona at Gateway Ekkami or the brand new Kidzania (opening March 29, 2013) at Siam Paragon.  A good play area should hold the kids’ attention for hours.

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On a hot day, Kidzoona delivers

3.  Reading nooks –  Have an avid reader?  Mosey on down to the beautiful Neilson Hays Library in Silom and spend a morning browsing through their selection and reading some new literature.  On Saturday mornings at 1030am, the library hosts a story-telling hour followed by a craft activity.  There is a nice gallery cafe adjacent to the library where you can lunch post-reading.  For a more local experience, hit up TK Park on the top floor of Central World.  It houses a kids reading room with a good selection of English and Thai books, as well as a treehouse of nooks for the adventurous reader-climber.

4. Siam Ocean World – If you regularly read Toddle Joy, you know this is a favorite place of ours.  Fantastic indoor aquarium with exhibits that change frequently in the basement of one of the best malls in Bangkok.  What’s not to love?  Logan and I just traversed the shark tank on the glass bottom boat for the first time last week; worth it.  Very cool.

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Anxiously waiting to board the glass bottom boat

5.  Cool way down and give Sub Zero Ice Skate Club in Ekami a whirl.  140 baht/adult and 100 baht/child per hour (weekday prices; a little bit more expensive on the weekends).  The rink is located at Major Ekami Mall on Sukhumvit soi 61; accessible via Ekami BTS.

6. Visit the Bangkok Art and Culture Center (BACC) – The BACC is a cool place for parents and children to visit together.  Kids can release some energy by running up the spiral walk adorned with art (it would be hard to break anything) while parents get their art-fix on.  The current exhibit is on Thai cartoons.  There are restaurants in the building so you can grab a quick bite before leaving.  BACC is connected to the skywalk at the National Stadium BTS exit (directly across from MBK).

7.  Find a yummy child-friendly restaurant and spoil them.  That’s right.  Go all out and order them ice cream or cake.  Great new places for this?  Mr. Jones’ Orphanage (both in Thong Lor and at Siam Center) caters to children with its eye-catching dessert table, swinging teddy bears, and home made vanilla, spearmint, chocolate, or bubblegum milk ; the brand new Magnum Cafe in Siam Center allows you to make your own Magnum Bar and choose from over 20 toppings.  Y–U–M.

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Entranced by the dessert table at Mr. Jones’ Orphanage Thong Lor

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Kit-Kat M&M cake: a child’s delight

8.  Get creative indoors – Build pillow forts and race tracks, finger paint, sculpt with Wikki Stix.  If you have a big enough balcony, cultivate your child’s green thumb. You know,  just get creative.   Pinterest is the ultimate tool for finding new ideas when it comes to kids’ crafts.  Embrace it.

Things you probably don’t want to do this time of year?  Ancient Siam, Dusit Zoo, any park, the Crocodile Farm, the Floating Market, Jatujak Market, visiting wats along the Chao Praya.  Don’t do it folks.  You and your children will melt.  And you will all be cranky.  Cranky x 100.

Anybody else have good ideas on how to beat the heat?  Please sound off in the comments if so.

Inside Kidzoona

As some of you may know, Gateway Ekami Mall opened up last year and it is home to a fantastic new play area by Aeon Fantasy.  I’m a little bit late to the punch on this one, but seeing as Ekami seems a world away to us – just under six miles (but a life time in Bangkok traffic) – we just scouted out this new venue for the first time over the weekend.  We had been told by several friends that this place was great, but you really have to go and experience it to understand how awesome it is for the little ones.  When you first walk in,   you enter a type of indoor amusement park with ride-on Japanese buses, bullet trains, police motorcycles, trucks . . . you name it.  There are heaps of video games for older children and a pretty pink carousel for the younger ones.

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Katelyn and Logan were so entranced by this place that we couldn’t get either one of them to look at the camera!

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Stimulation overload

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Holidays the American Way

We are beyond happy and excited to be home visiting family and enjoying the delights of the USA this holiday season.  What’s not to love about visiting DC’s most awesome Smithsonian museums – dinosaurs, planes, space shuttles, model trains and all – or heading out to a farm with good friends, enjoying festive toddler-sized dinners with cousins, running wild through the National Zoo, visiting fire stations, watching parades, eating mounds of sweets, frolicking in the snow, choosing and cutting down our very own Christmas tree?  Yes folks, we are doing it all, and it is wonderful.

That being said, there are a few things we have had to adjust to when it comes to spending time at home this winter:

1. Instead of getting out the door with shorts, t-shirt and crocs for Logan and a onesie for Kate we have to bundle up.  I’m talking warm socks, real shoes (!), two long-sleeve t-shirts, a sweater, fleece-lined pants, jacket, gloves, and maybe a hat.  And that’s just Logan.  The same routine goes for Kate, but with a more feminine flare.  Then I attempt to put on pants, a sweater, socks, tennis shoes, and a jacket.  Then Kate spits up.  Start again.  Then Logan has a dirty diaper.  Start again.  Finally, we are ready to walk out the door 45 minutes after we started getting dressed and both kids are crying because they hate winter attire.  Geesh.  How does anyone ever make it out of the house with kids in cold weather? #sothankfulforBangkokweather

2. Driving, driving and more driving.  From my parents’ house to DC – about 40 minutes each way.  From my parents’ house to one of my best friend’s house – about one hour each way.  From Walter’s mom’s house to his sister’s house – about 20 minutes each way.  Yes, the kids are sick of driving, but they are being good sports about it.  In Bangkok, I strap Kate in the ergo, Logan in the stroller, head down the elevator, and within 10-15 minutes we are at:  a) the pediatrician, or b) the grocery store, or c) a shopping mall, or d) the embassy (aka daddy’s work), or e) Logan’s school, or f) lots and lots of restaurants, or g) the skytrain.  You get the point.  Also, I get many weird looks for wearing Kate in a carrier instead of using a stroller in the suburbs.  #sohappytoliveinabigcity

3. Two hours early for our domestic flights and we still almost miss them!  Yikes.  We totally forgot how difficult air travel was in the USA!  Shoes – off, belts – off, baby carriers -off.  An airport train at Dulles that doesn’t get you anywhere near your gate.  Three gigantic suitcases, two car seats, and a stroller are probably not adding to the ease and efficiency of our travel.  Thankfully, we have managed to make all of our flights just as the are boarding.  Guess I can’t complain too much.  #wemissyouThaiAirwaysandAirAsia

4. The size . . . of everything!  Portions and grocery stores, especially.  I walked into Meijer two days ago and was completely overwhelmed.  They just don’t have mac n cheese, they have an ENTIRE SECTION dedicated to mac n cheese.  The same goes for animal crackers.  A half-aisle just for ice cream made from candy bars.  People, this is what makes America great . . . but it is totally insane.  You can get anything and everything.  All in one store and for affordable prices.  I forgot how easy it was to do one-stop shopping in the USA.  I also realize how Americans are getting fat fast compared to the rest of the world . . . #ohVillaMarketyouhavegrownonme

We miss you, Thailand, but not enough to come back just yet.  Two more weeks and we still have carriage rides in the snow, a trip to see even more cousins in Laguna Niguel, CA’s Legoland,  oh right – and a little something called Christmas, left to enjoy.  More from us in 2013.  Until then, Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year!

What Not to Miss During the Holidays

Although we are headed back home to celebrate the holidays this year, I felt it obligatory to share with my readers what not to miss in Bangkok over the next month or two.  After all, Christmas trees are already going up all around town and the weather is starting to cool off.

Logan last Christmas

1.  In search of Christmas toys?  Plan Toys has their unbeatable semi-annual sale throughout the month of December.  Make a morning out of visiting their factory store on Sathorn Soi 10 and you will find discounts from 50-70 percent on some of their finest toys, from doll houses to pull toys to wooden firetrucks, tractors, and more.   There is a crazy awesome train table set up in the front of the store, as well as toy kitchens, cars, trucks, etc.  Bring your little ones along and they will be so busy playing they won’t even know you are buying for them.  Seriously, this is the sale.  Buy for Christmas and stock up for birthdays (both your child’s birthday and his friends birthdays).  You will be happy that you did so.  More about Plan Toys in one of my previous posts – The Land of Wooden Toys.

2. Do not miss the Bangkok Symphony Orchestra’s “Concerts in the Park” at Lumpini every Sunday evening at 5:30pm from December-February.  This is an awesome opportunity to let the little ones roam free with their friends while you nosh on bread and cheese (and maybe – gasp- bring a little wine) and listen to the Orchestra’s renditions of famous tunes from the Indiana Jones to the Phantom of the Opera to Christmas music and more.  The concert dates for 2012-3 as listed on the Bangkok Symphony Orchestra’s FB page:

Sunday 16, December 2012
Sunday 23, December 2012
Sunday 6, January 2013
Sunday 13, January 2013
Sunday 20, January 2013
Sunday 27, January 2013
Sunday 3, February 2013
Sunday 10, February 2013

Concerts are free of charge.  Bring your tots, some food and drink (they sell popcorn, soft drinks and a few other snacks), friends, bikes and trikes, rent a mat or two to sit on, and enjoy.  This is a beautiful time of year to be outside.

3.  Hit up an enjoyable and delicious Christmas buffet.  There are only a gazillion options in Bangkok – so choose a location that seems family-friendly, is reasonably priced, and will make your tummy happy.  Our favorite is the Sukothai Chocolate Buffet.  While the Chocolate Buffet is offered year-round, the Sukothai is decorated so beautifully at Christmas that we venture to the buffet once a year during the holidays.  Don’t worry, there is a savoury table to match the sweet one.  In the event of a sweet headache, just start altering between the two (my husband has the method down)!  The buffet runs about 1200 baht/person (and half that for children) over the holidays.

Sukothai Chocolate Buffet last Christmas

Logan loved it!

Oh, there is so much more to do in Bangkok during the holidays.  If you have suggestions, please share them in the comments.  We’re all looking for new ways to explore a city that offers so much, and the holidays are a great time to explore.

This One’s for the Parents

No matter whether you have one calm, sleep-happy baby at home, a house full of crazy toddlers, or heaven forbid, both, all parents just need a break sometimes.  Here are some new, hip locales that parents in Bangkok owe it to themselves to try out:

The view from “Up and Above” at the Okura Prestige

1. For a drink (or two, or three . . . ), hit up the newly-opened Okura Prestige‘s “Up and Above” bar.  Located on the five-star hotel’s 24th floor, the bar has an amazing outdoor balcony and seating area with an enviable view of the city.  Choices on the cocktail menu are generous and diverse.  This bar is so chic that they even attach small LED flashlights to the  menus so you can read the drink list in the dark.  Being a five-star hotel, the service is impeccable.  We visited “Up and Above” on what was threatening to be another rainy evening in Bangkok.  Even though the hotel had temporary closed the outdoor seating area due to impending inclement weather, the waitress opened it up just for the two of us to have a drink.  Read:  private evening cocktails overlooking the city.  Doesn’t get much better than that!

Up and Above Restaurant and Bar

  • Located at intersection of Phloen Chit and Wireless Road.  The hotel has a direct link via covered walkway to the BTS at Phloen Chit station.
  • Open Daily; Bar hours:  17.00 – 01.00

2. For an exquisite meal, venture out to Quince Eatery and Bar.  We were fortunate enough to first try out Quince during its soft opening in June.  The restaurant, housed in a restored 1950s Sukhumvit home, has a contemporary and homey feel that can be described as “rustic chic”. The chef consultant, Jess Barnes, hails from the Barossa Valley in South Australia.  Quince’s menu, which changes frequently, is divided into small dishes, salads, and more substantial plates; perfect for sharing.  Most of the ingredients are locally sourced and the dishes are reasonably priced.  Quince also has an extensive wine list that features good values – something you can’t often find in Thailand.

Quince by day, photo by farfromthemaddeningcrowd.com

Quince’s FB page features its current menu, as well as photos of the restaurant, the food, and some additional information about the chef’s vision.

In addition, here are some independent reviews for your reading pleasure:

Quince Eatery and Bar
Sukhumvit soi 45 (top of the soi)
BTS: Phrom Pong
Phone:  02-662-4478 (do make reservations, as this place fills up every night!)
Email:  eat@quincebangkok.com
Open Mon-Sun; 11:30-01:00

If you make it out to one of the above places, let me know what you think.  I hope to provide more suggestions of new cool places for parents to unwind in a subsequent post (when we have more time ourselves to get out and do some more exploring)!